Coping with loss

It is natural to feel a range of emotions after someone close to you has died from pancreatic cancer. There is support available to help you cope.

When someone close to you dies you may feel numb or exhausted. You may feel relieved that they are no longer suffering, or you may keep going over what happened in your mind. If everything happened very quickly, you might not have felt prepared or you might question why you didn’t have more time with your loved one.

Grief is different for everyone, and you may react differently or cope in different ways to others.

It is common for people to experience physical symptoms when they are grieving. You may have trouble sleeping, your appetite may change, or you might feel very tired and weak. If you are feeling anxious you may also have shortness of breath or tightness in your chest. There are healthcare professionals, such as your GP, that can support you and help you manage these symptoms. There are also organisations that can support you.

Marie Curie and Cruse Bereavement Care have more information on the physical symptoms of grief.

What can help you to cope?

  • Make sure you look after yourself. Try to eat well and rest as much as you can.
  • It can help to keep active in some way, such as going for a walk.
  • If you are struggling to sleep it can help to find a routine and ways to wind down. Reading a book, listening to calm music or having a bath before going to sleep might help.
  • Take all the time you need, and take things at your own pace.
  • Don’t fight your emotions or feel you can’t cry.
  • It’s ok to share how you are feeling with others, and can be an important part of grieving.
  • You may want to talk to your family and friends. You might find it comforting to share memories of your loved one with people who knew them well.
  • Some people might not know what to say, or worry about upsetting you. This can make it hard for you to talk about how you are feeling. You could try letting them know what you do or don’t feel comfortable talking about, and ways you think they could help. Cruse Bereavement Care have information on supporting someone who is grieving, which may be helpful to share with those close to you.
  • Finding ways to remember your loved one may help, especially on special dates like birthdays or anniversaries. Our Together in Memory page lets friends and family leave messages and share photos in one place.
  • You could try create a memory box of items can help, such as pictures, letters or their favourite things. You can come back to the box when you are thinking about your loved one.
  • You can also talk to healthcare professionals, such as your GP, about how you are feeling.
  • Some people find counselling helps. Counselling gives you a safe place to come to terms with your feelings, and helps you find ways to cope. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has information about counselling and finding a counsellor. Your GP can help you find a counsellor, and your local hospice may offer counselling and other support. Find your local hospice.
  • If you are worried about practical things, such as work, money or even socialising with friends again, Macmillan Cancer Support has information on their website. For example, you may be eligible to claim benefits if you are bereaved.
  • Some people find it helpful to fundraise for a charity, as a way of doing something positive in their loved one’s memory. If you are interested in this, find out how you could fundraise for us.
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“I saw a bereavement counsellor once before he died then again afterwards. Those two sessions were the most valuable as I felt I could "indulge" myself and not feel I needed to be "strong". I could cry and not worry that I might be worrying someone else.”

Getting bereavement support

There is support available to help you deal with how you feel after your loved one has died. You may want to talk to family and friends, but there are also organisations that can provide support.

  • Our specialist nurses on our Support Line can talk to you about how you are feeling.
  • Cruse Bereavement Care offer bereavement support on their free Helpline.
  • Marie Curie provide bereavement support through their Support Line.
  • Sue Ryder have a free online video bereavement counselling service.
  • Maggie’s Centres offer information and support, and can help you find support in your local area.
  • Macmillan Cancer Support have information on emotional support in their booklet, After someone dies: coping with bereavement.
  • The Good Grief Trust can help you find local support, and shares videos of people’s personal experiences of grief.
  • The Loss Foundation provides bereavement support to people who have lost a loved one to cancer. They support family members as well as friends or colleagues.
  • Samaritans can provide a listening ear at any time of the day or night on their helpline. You don’t have to be suicidal to call them.
  • Lifeline is a helpline service in Northern Ireland for anyone experiencing distress at any time of the day or night.
  • The Compassionate Friends offers support to people who have lost a child of any age.
  • Carers UK has information on grief and practical matters if you have lost someone you were caring for.
  • Widowed and Young (WAY) offer online peer support and a 24 hour helpline for anyone who has lost a partner under the age of 51.
  • At A Loss can help you find bereavement information and support.
  • Bereaved NI provides information and support for people who are grieving. Although focused on Northern Ireland, much of the information is relevant across the UK.

There are online communities where you can talk to others who have been bereaved, and who understand what you are going through. You can use our online forum. Marie Curie and Sue Ryder also have online communities.

Bereavement support for children and young people

It can be hard to support a child or young person who has been bereaved. They may grieve in different ways to adults, and their behaviour might change as they try to cope with their feelings. Being open and talking about how you are feeling can help them know it is ok to share their feelings.

  • If your loved one was cared for at a hospice, the hospice may provide bereavement support for your family – including children and young.
  • Cruse Bereavement Care have information and support for young people who have been bereaved on their Hope Again website.
  • Winston’s Wish can provide support and information for bereaved children.
  • Grief Encounter provides support for bereaved children and young people with a range of services.
  • Child Bereavement UK help support young people up to the age of 25 through videos and telephone support.
  • Young Minds helps young people get the mental health support they need, including bereavement support.

We have more information about talking to children and teenagers, and organisations that can support them.

Read more information on supporting children.
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“My young daughter used our local hospice’s child bereavement service and I cannot praise them enough. Their expertise in a delicate matter was fantastic.”

Speak to our nurses

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line if you need support after someone has died from pancreatic cancer.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse, Lisa, talks on the phone to offer support.

Published April 2021

Review date April 2024